tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC August 26, 2010 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT
deepwater horizon disaster in the gulf. i'm h olbermann. goodnight and good luck. live in new orleans with the stories of those who never got the help they were promised, ladies and gentlemen, here is rachel maddow. good evening. >> good evening. for the first time ever, you have broken too far to the right. angle i'm speechless. >> thank you. thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. we are live tonight from algiers point, a neighborhood in new orleans just across the mississippi river, the wide, wide river from the french qu t quarter and downtown new orleans. one of the things that is nice about this neighborhood is it gives you a great view of the downtown. i always thought algiers was pretty in its own right. a house in this neighborhood would cost you 40% more than it would have before hurricane katrina and the catastrophic flooding that followed the storm
when the levees broke. this neighborhood, though algiers point did not flood. they had wind damage and went through a hurricane, after all. but the water didn't raise here. yet this is still an american neighborhood that is surviving katrina in some ways. still surviving. we are here for a couple of days to see what surviving katrina still looks like here in this great place here in new orleans. the original name for what i'm standing is the calliope housing project. it then became the b.w. cooper housing project. it should be noted it's not the b.w. cooper housing project anymore. it's not anything anymore. b.w. cooper along with three other huge housing projects in new orleans a couple of years ago got torn down, leveled. not necessarily because they were storm damaged. a lot of them really weren't. a lot were very solid construction and didn't have
much damage at all. the city voted in 2007, the city council voted to tear them down. in 2008, down they came. the new orleans city council voted to demolish the housing in 2007. in 2008, more than 3,000 apartments, many totally undamaged by the storm and the flooding. many occupied. they were torn down. it's not like the projects were shangry la. i talked with folks today who lived in the apartments before the storm. the idea was to use the storm as a pretext to not just tear down the big bad housing projects but replace them with mixed-use housing. woefully poor people wouldn't be concentrated in giant blocks. some of the replacement building is complete. some -- well, see for yourself. that's b.w. cooper. here's a site where the
rebuilding is well under way. this used to be the st. bernard housing project. from where i'm standing, you can get a pretty good shot of the before and the after. even though some of the before is still now. this is what the housing units here essentially used to look like. this is some of the original structure. across the street, if you pan over, this is some of the new development. you can see how different it is. this is intended to be mixed income housing. it's not intended to be all subsidized income dependent public housing. they tore down 963 public housing units here. the new development so far is 465. significantly fewer. but in terms of what's still available in terms of really public heavily subsidized housing like this all used to be, it's 150 units. see the math on this doesn't work. if you take housing that's set
aside just for poor people -- even if you hate that housing -- if you take away the all poor people housing and replace it one for one with nuch units that are mixed, some totally market rate, some with full subsidies, if you replace bad public housing with equal numbers of mixed use, at the end of the day, you have dramatically reduced the amount of housing in this city that poor people can afford to live in. maybe the housing they do get will be nicer. there aren't going to be as many poor people around anymore. about 70% of all the occupied housing in the city sustains some kind of damage when the levees broke in 2005. a majority of that was rental housing. quite a lot has been rebuilt. there's a waiting list of 28,000 families for affordable housing in new orleans right now. it's not that every apartment, every house in new orleans is occupied now. they're not. there is a vacancy rate.
it's not that there is a housing shortage per se. it is a shortage of housing that poor people can afford to live in. so you have a city that has regained 80% of its prestorm population. it is not the same population. african-americans and the poor are underrepresented among the people who have been able to come back. for people who have come back, things are tough. in orleans parish and st. bernard, 60% of the schools have reopened. crime is bad. it was bad before. it's bad now. the 23 hospitals that were here in orleans parish are now 12 hospitals instead. if you want mental health services because, i don't know, say you survived an apocalypse and had to free for your life, the biggest mental health unit in the city is now in the prison. being back here again, it is a beautiful city. algiers point is beautiful. rebuilding is beautiful. strength under adversity was beautiful. when the saints won the super
bowl and people said, new orleans is back, none of us were kidding. but five years after the floods, even in the parts of the city that stayed dry, what's going on is that we are still in this part of america, we americans here, are still surviving this. joining us now is james perry, who heads up the greater new orleans fair housing center. he's an msnbc contributor. we would have wanted to talk to him regardless tonight. he also ran for mayor of this great city. >> thank you for having me. >> the way i characterize the difficulty of moving back here. first of all, did i get anything wrong? second of all, how much harder is it to be poor in this city than it was before? >> you got it absolutely right. the truth is people who are here are here because they absolutely want to be here. it's difficult to be here frankly. we've seen a net decrease in affordable housing in the city. anyone who makes median income or below, it's a struggle to
find anything affordable. there's lots of construction happening, but you it's not construction of affordable housing. >> was that by design such when you look at the debate by tearing down public housing projects, that was a spirited conversation. i think there were patriotic discussions on both sides. but you look at the plans to rebuild and to have so many fewer units available for the people who qualified income wise for those projects, why? >> rachel, it was by design. you remember that the bush administration was in charge at that time. and the bush administration philosophy on subsidizing public housing was that the cost to government was too high. they were looking for a goal that would allow you them to reduce the actual amount that taxpayers had to say po sub di si subsidize housing. they put great appreciate on the city council to go along with this plan that didn't serve our
low-income citizens well. >> how do you fight back? i've never thought of myself as somebody who understood the nitty gritty of housing policy. coming back here, when you're talking about prekatrina new orleans versus post katrina new orleans, it seems that's the spine that runs right down the middle. how do you fight it? >> i love my president. i think president obama does a great job. he's done a great job with the new programs here. but the president has been reticent to fix the failures of the bush administration. there are a few categories in housing where we need president obama's hud to change what president bush did. and it can work. the president has a very different view on public and subsidized housing from president bush. it can happen. but they have to be willing to be aggressive and change the way things have been done here. >> when people think about making it affordable, what we think about is the old school housing projects and thinking of those sort of things.
what's the way to make new orleans a place where everybody who lived here before can go back? >> sure. there are some basic premises that have to exist. there has to be one for one replacement of the total number of affordable units, right? it means that you have to build more units than existed before in order to achieve that goal and still have mixed in being. you have to have that principle. the second is that you have to use something in this process where instead of moving everybody else at one time, you do it in phases. you make sure people don't end up homeless or lost in the process. we have doubled the number of homeless people before hurricane katrina. in 2005, 6,000 homeless. now 12,000 homeless people in this city. it's because they didn't use the right process. >> to see the amount of services in the city it decline, i talked with a woman today who lived in
lafitte projects. she's got a voucher and in a neighborhood she said is incredibly dangerous. there's been murders on her blocks. he was trying to get into one of the other redevelopment projects. she was invited to apply to join the waiting list. she said she was making $15,000 before the storm. she's now making about $8,000. meanwhile, she's had to buy a car and bus service is gone in new orleans. being poor -- it's not just harder to be here and pay rent. all of the things that people who aren't rich enough to take care of everything for themselves have to rely on, those are gone too. hospitals, bus service, all that stuff. >> the people are extremely resilient. they're here because they're fighting to be here. folks aren't asking for a handout from government but just a help up, right? that's all that folks are saying. the section 8 voucher program has not worked here simply because it hasn't made it possible for people to move into neighborhoods that provide opportunity. part of the reason is that there
are so few neighborhoods with opportunity post katrina. >> i don't know what the word is to describe somebody who is a patriot to a city. booster isn't right. whatever that word is, you're that, james perry. >> thank you so much. >> we appreciate it. >> absolutely. >> james perry is the executive director of the greater new orleans fair housing action center. coming up next, a man on a really fast, really loud atv attempts to chase me off of a golf course. but i had a secret weapon with me that made me immune from his threats. it really happened. that's next. it's ellen. hey, mayor white. how you doing? great. come on in. would you like to see our new police department? yeah, all right. this way. and here it is. completely networked. so, anything happening, suz? she's all good. oh, my gosh. is that my car? [ whirring ] [ female announcer ] the new community. see it. live it. share it. on the human network. cisco.
pollenization of people. >> i was a trial lawyer five years ago. i didn't work with the grass eaters and people who eat tofu. i didn't know who though -- >> you had a hippie-free life, is that what you're trying to tell me? >> i had a hippie-free life. >> it was a good time, a hippie-free time. >> oh, look at the dirty people. now they're all in my office. >> and you love them? >> and i love them to death. >> more ahead. we are live in new orleans. my subaru saved my life. i won't ever forget that. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru.
we are right now. we have a map. we are in algiers, specifically algiers point. right across a bend in the river from the french quarter. when you think of new orleans, you think of the mississippi running right through the center. it is easy to forget this is water world. water everywhere, including the river. it's really lake ponchetrain that looms over the city like an inland city. the neighborhood of lake ponchetrain is right here. under jim crow, this was one of the first planned suburban communities intended for the black middle class. ponchetrain was hit hard after katrina. i met tracy washington there today. we're here with tracy washington. tracy is the co-founder of the louisiana justice institute. a native new orleanian, attorney and hell of an activist.
when i was with air america in 2005 when the storm first hit. you were one of the people that i found who told me what was going on in the city. >> you were one of the first interviews at the one-year anniversarying. we were talking about housing. >> when we were talking about getting together with you, you said specifically you wanted to meet here in ponchetrain. what did you want us to see about this neighborhood? >> i guess the thing about this neighborhood that epitomizes the recovery we're in is that the recovery is spotty. ponchetrain park was one of the first developed communities in the country. it was developed for middle class black folk. when you're driving in, you see some changes, some houses that have been rebuilt. but as you can see when we get farther back into the community, the grass is cut, but we've still got abandoned houses.
rachel, here's the thing that is troublesome. these were not just owner-occupied. most people owned their house outright. they didn't get enough money to come back and rebuild. >> ponchetrain was designed as a segregated suburban. it's been a place for the black elite in new orleans. lake ponchetrain is right over there essentially. this is a golf course. >> this is a city-owned golf course. we'll see some of our wonderful workers on buggies coming by. >> they tried to chase us away very aggressively. it was very exciting. the one person you want to be standing by in new orleans when a guy on an atv tries to chase you away from a public spot is tracy washington. this is cog hill elementary school? >> cog hill elementary, yeah. we're still in the same neighborhood. on the border between
ponchetrain and gen tilly. they had three schools working before katrina. we're back to one. morell is not up yet. but we've got a school. >> it's a lot of modular construction. >> it is a temporary school. it is slated to be rebuilt with a building at some point. it's a little disappointing that we've got what looks almost like a permanent structure at this point, building after building. it's not the real thing, but it's someplace for people to put their kids. unfortunately, we don't have -- we've got more kids in this area, or want to be in this area, than we have space. >> that's one of the things restricting people's ability to come back, the physical capacity of the schools? >> you would find most of the kids in this area if they're not walking, they're in other neighborhoods where they don't have schools so we bus and move around. but they're in schools. you want the bright spot, we've
got some kids in school. four years ago, i sued because we didn't have schools open. i literally had to sue the state and say open some schools. now we've got some schools open. that's a plus. >> but it's not enough. >> it's far from enough. >> you sued to get schools open in 2006. you sued to stop the city demolishing public housing duplexes. 2008, you sued to get charity hospital reopened. i've read with interest your personally physically stopping bulldozers from knocking down people's houses slated to be demolished. for you it's a long, slow simmer. you have been an aggressive activist. not only since the storm but from before. what's your overall strategy? what are you trying to do to make this work such. >> it's basic. we have basic fundamental social structures in this country that
evaporated after hurricane katrina. transportation, roads, health care, housing, education. and with when we got back, there was this master plan to rebuild it slowly and allow only certain people to return. and i just -- i couldn't live here and not say, hell no. and so bit by bit, fight by fight, we've said, you're going to it open schools. charity hospital, that beautiful art deco building, we want it reopened and we will continue to fight and make some noise and make you uncomfortable until you do something to give us back health care. we want buses to run in all of our neighborhoods. and we will continue to fight for that. and affordable housing. well, you know, we lost that battle. the public housing units are down. our projects are down. the most sturdy buildings. the fight now is to make sure folks still out there get home. that fight continues.
>> when you say the plan for rebuilding new orleans was designed so that not even would be able to come back. what you mean is that the things that are public amenities, things like bus service and affordable housing guarantees and schools and hospitals and all of these things, particularly a hospital like charity that serves the uninsured mostly -- >> right. >> those things haven't come back, which precludes people who need resources like that to come back? >> right, exactly. we're a poor city. we're still a poor city. we're a service-run city. people come here. they come to our hotels and drink and eat. we have people making $10 an hour doing it. that was fine prior to katrina because they could get to work on the bus and they could live in public housing off $10 an hour and go to charity when they were sick. now, you don't have that. and i say to those people i represent, the marginalized and poor folk, what are you going to do with them? you can't privatize everything.
you can't import enough people from mexico and central america to come and do this work. doggone it, the people who lived here deserve not to make $10 an hour. they deserve to make a living wage and they deserve to have these social structures restored. that's something only our government can do. doggone it, i don't want to hear from anyone else, no tea party people or anybody else, that's not a government function. we can privatize it. oh, really? when all of y'all lose your jobs, first place unit to go, public history. what happens if it's gone, rachel? what happens when public education is gone? so i'm passionate about it because so many people are affected by it. if i'm not dealing with the people affected by it now, i know other folks will be affected by this. and we need this assistance. >> i feel like you are trying to sort of let people know, celebrate five years on.
come back, spend money, eat, drink, do what you need to do, we need you here, but don't tell the story of -- the noble suffering story about us. it's not noble suffering. don't romanticize what people have been through you, justify people going you through more. you think stuff can get better? >> absolutely. you know, five years ago, i weighed 110 pounds more than i do right now. people said, you're sexy. tell me the truth. i'm big on healthy. so i say, tell us the truth. tell the truth about the city of new orleans and let us work to get healthy. and we can get healthy. bit by bit, pound by pound, we will get this done. but don't lie about what we have right now. don't say we have perfect health care because we don't. don't say we've got great schools. we still have a lot of stupid children, not because they want
to be but because we're not educating them well. if we face it, we work a little bit at a time. rachel, i couldn't be more confident or i'd have to leave. >> tracie, thank you so much. >> thank you. wear that shirt well, baby. >> don't sperse me, bro. >> thank you. i know you've got a lot anything on. >> go to the golf course again. >> go meet our friend in the buggy again? you can learn more about the louisiana justice institute at our website. the most intense thing we did today in new orleans was searching out and finding the exact spot where a really, really scary photograph was taken in the worst days of the immediate aftermath of hurricane katrina. i will tell you why i sought that out. and i think scared myself in the process when we come back. we are live in the algiers point
neighborhood of new orleans. we'll be right back. [ engine turns over ] [ armstrong ] in 20 years of cycling, even when i was ahead, i was always behind. ♪ behind cars... behind trucks... behind those guys... tailpipe... [ clucking ] ...after tailpipe after tailpipe... [ engines rev ] ...until now. ♪ the 100% electric... no-tailpipe nissan leaf. innovation for the planet. innovation for all.
we're with you when you're saving for your dreams. [ woman ] when you want a bank that travels with you. with you when you're ready for the next move. [ male announcer ] now that wells fargo and wachovia have come together, what's in it for you? unprecedented strength, the stability of the leading community bank in the nation and with 12,000 atms and thousands of branches, we're with you in more ways and places than ever before. with you when you want the most from your bank. [ male announcer ] wells fargo. together we'll go far.
where i am right now is religious street. attention all poets, a lot of streets are like that in new orleans. as you can see where i'm standing right the now is a vacant lot. i don't know if this was also vacant in 2005. but the reason this is an important spot is because of a photograph that was taken here on september 1st, 2005. a photograph that was taken that
the police wish had not been taken. and the dogged efforts of a newspaper editor here in new orleans who for five years would not allow what he saw here and what was photographed here to be forgotten. take a look at this picture. if we can, can we drop the graphics so you can see it full size? this picture was taken on september 1st, 2005, three days into katrina. there are ten policemen visible in the photo, the bridge in the background. in the lower right-hand quadrant, a man who appears to be dead on the ground. he is contorted? his shirt appears bloody. his arm is cantilevered behind him. near the former housing unit, they were clustered in an intersection.
a transit bus was nearby. a man who appeared to be dead from a gunshot wound lay on the ground. marco georgev took the photo. and you can guess what's about to happen next. the police are coming after the photographer who they realize have been taking pictures of them. the editor and the photographer say they were assaulted by police soon after that picture. they say the police took one of their cameras and took the memory card out of that. he lost that day a work. except for these two images, which as luck would have it were in a different camera that the police didn't notice. another photographer on the scene that witnesses say shot photos of that man lying dead on the ground said he was also assaulted by police.
those images he took are lost. but the newspaper editor from the times picayune said he never forgot what he saw. that man lying on religious street, surrounded by ten police officers, never turned up in any reports. there was no official record of the incident. could that man be another lost to the chaos civilian? nearly five years on, the editor wrote about it again. the paper published the photos. he talked to the one police officer who he knows was at the scene who would talk to him about it. he pieced together all of the information about police action in that area on that day. he realized that in that haunting photo there was a red lump here the tire of the vehicle on the right. that was actually another crumpled man. what seemed to be another body. the editor didn't let it go. he kept investigating. there were no records of bodies
collected that seemed to match these circumstances, no arrest arrests for any suspects. there was, in fact, no police record of any kind of what happened. there were just those two pictures and a nagging memory and refusal to forget the incident. it turns out that the men in the photo were not dead. they were apparently booten to a bloody pulp by police officers that day. one man said his teeth were knocked out that day. but he survived, as did the man in the white shirt, as appearing to be dead. his name is earnest bell. he survived. what it seems like happened is that the men were detained on suspicion of shooting at police. but the men did not have any weapons. after beating the hell out of them, they left them on the street after making sure no photographs of the incident survived. policing after katrina was hell on earth. but the record of something horribly wrong happening to
these americans wouldn't be forgotten. the justice department is now investigating the incident five years on. like all of katrina, it's part of the unfinished business of what happened, showing it, not letting it be forgotten and trying to make it right. we'll be right back. one day, i'll park this in a spot reserved for me. it's got 26,000 miles on it now, but i'm gonna take it to a thousand million. [ male announcer ] when you own a certified pre-owned mercedes-benz, chances are they'll own it one day, too. which is why it undergoes such a rigorous inspection to meet our uncompromising standards. one day, i'm gonna drive this to vegas. [ male announcer ] hurry in to your authorized mercedes-benz dealer for 1.99% financing during our certified pre-owned sales event through august 31st. [ female announcer ] this is not a prescription. this is diane. diane, who has diabetes and a daughter who could use a little perspective. diane, who worked with her walgreens pharmacist to keep her blood-sugar numbers in check with a few changes to her diet. ♪ diane, who's showing her daughter
the world's a bit bigger than 8th grade. expertise -- find it everywhere there's a walgreens. [ female announcer ] start your morning... hey. what are you doing up? i thought i'd take a drive before work. want to come? [ female announcer ] or make his day. yeah. [ female announcer ] maxwell house gives you a rich, full-flavored cup of coffee, so you can be good to the last drop. ♪ every day, it's getting closer ♪ ♪ going faster than a roller coaster ♪ ♪ love like yours will surely come my way ♪ ♪ a-hey, a-hey-hey ♪ every day, it's getting faster ♪
as americans, we have a constitutional right to have a lawyer help us out. even if we can't afford it, if we are arrested. in louisiana, the law says you should get counsel within 72 hours. they don't fund the public defender program. before katrina, three-quarters of the public defender's office budget came from people paying traffic tickets and other fines. since there weren't a lot of traffic tickets getting paid or any other civil or criminal fees or fines getting paid after the storm, that money went away. public defender's office laid off nearly 80% of its staff. by a year affidavit storm, 11 public defenders were reportedly sharing 3,000 cases here. joining us is billy southern, an anti-death penalty lawyer, new orleans resident and author of the book, down in new orleans." also my pal.
hi, billy, good to see you. >> nice to see you too. >> does that sound right to you, the way i explained the public defender situation? >> indinlgent defense, like many things in louisiana, we were doing it the worst. we probably had a worst system than almost any other place in the country. actually, that's one of the bright points. post katrina, we look around and look for reasons for optimism. the orleans parish public defender's office is one of them. it's been transformed. great young lawyers are coming in, working these cases and realizing people's sixth amendment rights. that's one bright spot. >> in terms of your own work representing prisoners and people who have been convicted and challenging their cases or people facing very service charges, what happened to people who were already in the criminal justice system in katrina? >> it was a nightmare. people were left to die.
at this point, we have scores of stories of people who were left in the orleans parish prison in rising water, in cells they needed to break out of so they didn't drown. then they were transported willy-nilly if they did manage to get out, on buses across the country where they were kept in tents and essentially held without any prospect of release for months on end because no one bothered to figure out who they were, except for a small group of lawyers who began to work hard to identify people. on top of the nightmare that all of us lived with post katrina, these people had it far, far worse. i think it's important to remember that in our prison here, our jail, the vast majority of people are in for things like traffic tickets and trespassing on golf courses, that kind of thing. if you end up getting pulled over by the cops, there's a good
chance you'll get arrested, even if it's for something trivial. we're not talking about hardened criminals. we're talking about regular old people who had the misfortune of getting stopped by the police that day. >> there's been a lot of national attention, particularly recently about danzinger bridge shooting. we talked about one of the post katrina incidents in the previous segment in terms of what happened on religious street. there's national attention to the fact that the new orleans police department has serious problems. as a resident here, can you say how the problems in the new orleans police department affect what daily life is like here such. >> i think also it's important to note that this post katrina real crisis with the police where numerous civilians were murdered it appears is not, again, a katrina problem. it's a new orleans problem that was magnified and exposed by
hurricane katrina. but there's a real public confidence crisis with the new orleans police. we have a situation where people are concerned about reporting crimes to begin with. but then because we have police officers who are frequently hostile to the community to which they serve, it only makes people more reluctant to report crimes. so there's a real relationship in my mind between the staggering crime rate and the real collapse of public confidence in the police department. a collapse that seems entirely warranted. >> but it is a problem being taken seriously such. >> in part because of the dogged efforts of independent journalists. people like a.c. thompson at the nation exposing post katrina murders which police conspired to cover up. it's -- so the feds have respondeded to that. that's a terrific thing. but it's disconcerting to me there are no serpicos in this
story. no situation where the district attorney's office decided, we're going to clean up our own city. it required people coming in from outside to do this. while that's welcome, i think it's also to some extent, some cause for concern. >> are you hopeful? >> one of the things that you keep bringing the conversation back to, which i think sounds like a sign of hope, and i might be wrong, is the people trying to make it better. whether it's lawyers going after the people that were lost in the criminal justice system or crusading journalists, and the activists who have fought to make stuff work in a very broken system. does that work, the fact that has happened overall make you hopeful about staying here and living here? >> definitely. in addition to those people, anyone who gutted their house, anyone who helped someone else gut their house, anyone who keeps on calling the phone to try to get the street light fixed, at this point, five years
out, i think all these people are fighting for american democracy. whether you're trying to get your kid into a good school or joining the pta or what. the main thing i see in new orleans, whether it's the crime problem, housing problem, schooling problem, this is the razor's edge of problems that exist everywhere in america. to the extent they remain everyone in new orleans, i think there's little hope they'll be resolved elsewhere. most places don't have 60 murders per 100,000 residents. new york has six. to the extent they were unable to make progress on those points, my feeling is that americans should be concerned, not just for new orleans. but if we're unable to do this here, it's going to come to a neighborhood near them. >> remember new orleans, part of m
america? >> that's right. >> "down in new orleans, reflections from a drowned city" is bill's book. a lot of incredible things happened that enabled new orleans to survive after the hurricane. organic foods and things you couldn't have predicted before the storm. one example, the spontaneous conversion of one of the biggest radio stations in town to a round the clock community center coming up live from new orleans. but you think home filters can be a pain in the tucus. well check this out... boo-yah! shazam! h2...o! hydrolicious! look what i can do! magic bananas! adios contaminos! introducing the first faucet filter that installs with just one click and removes 99% of lead and microbial cysts. check it out at purwater.com. ♪ ♪ now the healing power of touch just got more powerful.
introducing precise from the makers of tylenol. precise pain relieving cream works quickly to activate sensory receptors. it helps block pain signals fast for relief you can feel precisely where you need it most. precise. only from the makers of tylenol. but you bake it, in the oven. well kraft corporation, i'm on to you.
while the rest of the country watched the catastrophe that was the aftermath of hurricane katrina unfold on television, except for a certain american president, who had to have a dvd of the footage made for him, the people directly experiencing the disaster didn't necessarily have access to tv to seen their own disaster, what with the electricity situation at all. internet access and phone access were precious commodities. enter radio. in some cases, the only means of communication evacuees had to find information. anything for people stuck in the deluge after the storm. one station in particular teamed up with a rival station to keep
taking phone calls and keep reporting from the field and keep relaying whatever information to as many people as possible. here's a little of what the early broadcasts sounded like. >> we've been here. they have about 70 people. they've got children. they've got diabetics and people with heart problems. the roof -- we are in a disaster. the roof is off the building. we cannot climb to the roof. we have no food. we have no water. and nobody -- we've seen helicopters passing us. we don't have nothing. >> how much water is in the street below? >> we can't even get to the highway? >> can you see it? >> no. we've got water coming from the back of the canal. >> have you had any luck getting through to 911? >> no. we can't get through to nobody. >> nurses are banging people in the dark. the roof blew off. the generator ran out. supplies are getting low. >> are you there at the hospital? >> yes. i'm up on the roof now trying to
help people. >> the roof blew off? >> on the sixth floor. water is backing up. it seems like we're forgotten about. we're the only hospital out here. >> how many people there? >> 600. >> how are they handling it? just want to know if anybody is coming and see about getting us out of here. >> i have my four grandkids, my daughter and my husband, and we don't have any food or water. we can't get out. we don't have a car. >> you need to get to worthy junior high. >> how are we going to do that? the policemen is no help around here. they tell us we just have to stay inside.
i called 911, i don't know how many times, and they tell us they can't do nothing for us. i tried to call red cross, i tried to call fema. i don't get no answer from them. >> like all of you, i barely got out of new orleans. we were in a high rise that was just destroyed, windows out, no water for a long time, very little food. operated from closets and hallways, fearing the building would fall and barely getting out ahead of the flood waters and almost having to fight our way on to the expressway, so i spent the last two days trying to locate my family and finally did, and then made it back to the job. so we're here for you for the duration. anything we can do, i'm going to give you numbers to call and everything else. >> the broadcaster you just heard there on wwl radio five years ago is the legendary new orleans broadcaster, garland
robinette who joins us now. a real pleasure to meet you. >> never been called legendary. thank you so much. >> it's a way of calling you young and spry. >> i like that. >> your station for awhile was the only one able to broadcast during the disaster. did you know at the time how important a lifeline you were? >> no. in fact, until the water came, and that day we said okay, storm missed us, right before the water came, and we began saying slidell, come in, and nobody. that's when it hit. we didn't know what was wrong but we knew something was wrong. >> i knew the studio, broadcast studio, was very badly hit as well. how hard was it physically in engineering terms to get the broadcasts on the air? >> the engineers i think were the true heroes of it. i don't know how they did it. they rigged up satellites in some form or fashion because we were i think six floors up and i mean, we were totally destroyed, thought we were going to be
pulled out of the window during the storm, while we were broadcasting, and all the windows, it was like a jet induction tunnel. everything blew out. it was interesting. >> what was the decision-making process like to go to essentially an all community access format, to drop anything you might have otherwise done to go full-time into call and information, calls and information? >> i think it started out just as a civic, we are the emergency radio station, so we had to do that, but when we hit the point where somebody would call in while driving in the car and crying, i can't find my wife, and then the wife would call from arkansas, say i heard it, then it was children and that went on for weeks, that was i think the part where we said all right, we're it, we got to stay with it. >> one of my greatest weaknesses as a broadcaster, it feels even weird like saying that i'm in the same job as you because you're very good at your job but
one of my greatest weaknesses is i'm teary, i get emotional talking about stuff. how did you hold it together? >> i didn't. anybody who knows me, hear people laughing in the background, got very angry, got unprofessional, even cried in a spike lee movie and mayor nagin and i got infamous worldwide by me crying on the radio. my john wayne moments weren't very good. >> that john wayne moment between you and mayor nagin, we played that on my radio station. at the time, then had to go to commercials for five minutes because me be and half the people i was hosting well fell apart. there's an emotional endurance you have to have to do it day after day, to be hearing that and just say this is my responsibility now. >> it sounds melodramatic but i had an edge on everybody else, spent 13 months in vietnam, kind of a real bad situation, and
being able to relate to that and this, it didn't seem that bad but i think my anger got so much that it overcame me. i got a little unprofessional. >> i don't think there's a standard for professionalism under circumstances like you're in. you have said in the past we're not really part of the united states, we're kind of like a rich haiti. what do you mean by that? >> i called us the untied state of america, kind of dyslexic cut away from america. i've never seen anything like it. i mean, when you watch brian williams' show that he ran last week, from day one, helicopter after helicopter after helicopter, superdome has two heliports. convention center has an open lot. i spent months in a place in vietnam where you could barely walk and they could land a helicopter, and five days, president of the united states or nobody else could fly in water or food to people that
were dying? and now bp with the oil spill, that took them awhile to get going and we've still got people worried about how they're going to survive on the coast. it's kind of like we're not part of the united states. >> you are. we just need to all take it more seriously. >> i like you. thank you so much. appreciate the invitation. thanks for what you guys are doing. >> absolutely. we're just hosting the bugs at this point. coming up on "countdown" dan savage joins keith to discuss what it means for the republican party now that ken mehlman has party now that ken mehlman has announced that he is gay. just stay off the freeways, all right? i don't want you going out on those yet. and leave your phone in your purse, i don't want you texting. >> daddy... ok! ok, here you go. be careful. >> thanks dad. >> and call me--but not while you're driving. we knew this day was coming.